Posts Tagged ‘Camera Reviews’

High Speed: Casio EX-FH100 Review

Casio EX-FH100 Review
Text and Photos by Allison Gibson

The Casio EX-FH100 has been making waves since its announcement at CES due to its inclusion of a back-illuminated CMOS sensor, 10x optical zoom and—most notably—high-speed video and still recording. Priced at $349.99, the FH100 offers a lot of features, including full manual shooting and the ever-alluring possibility to capture slow-motion video, all in a sleek and compact body. The fact that the FH100 can shoot high-speed movies at 1,000 frames per second (fps) and burst mode stills at 40fps tops the list of reasons that it’s an exciting piece of equipment, and the superb quality of its still image capture makes it a nice overall camera, albeit with a few frustrating UI kinks.

High Speed Still Images

High-speed shooting is accessed at any time by pressing the HS button on top of the camera, or by turning the shooting mode dial to the red Continuous Shooting option. With the HS button you can toggle between continuous shooting and single shot, regardless of whether you are in CS mode, Manual, Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority. Continuous shooting is not available when shooting in Best Shot mode. In continuous shooting mode, you have the option of capturing up to 30 images at rates of up to 40fps. These choices are accessed by pressing the SET button. For capturing action such as sports or fast-moving subjects such as pets, the EX-FH100 is almost unparalleled among compact cameras.

Super Slow Motion Video

As I mentioned, the show-stopping feature of this camera is its ability to shoot high-speed movies at up to 1,000 frames per second—which allows for a super slow-motion effect (33 times slower than true life). With video becoming not only popular but expected in compact cameras these days, the Casio EX-FH100 goes above and beyond in delivering exciting possibilities for creating slow-motion movies with pocket-size equipment. The drawback, however, to recording these impressive slow-motion movies at 1,000fps is that the resolution is substantially decreased, bringing videos all the way down to 224 x 64 pixels in size (640 x 480 at 120fps, 448 x 336 at 240fps, 224 x 168 at 420fps).

What Needs Work

This camera is a serious piece of equipment—both the features and the price reflect that—and yet the thing handles quite inelegantly. The screeching electronic noise that the lens motor makes when you zoom and focus is truly painful. It sounds as if the camera is frying on the inside. Frankly, it sounds cheap. And then there’s the auto focus lag, which is a problem in several of the shooting modes from the Best Shot menu—even when you press the shutter release half way down. The worst of it happens when shooting in “Multi-motion image” mode from the BS menu. Once the image is finally captured, the screen goes black and then says “Busy…Please wait…” for 15 seconds. Obviously in the interim you are bound to miss any other photo-ops. It’s hard, however, to complain too much about this when the high-speed camera offers continuous shooting mode to make sure you capture a whole sequence instead of worrying about shot-to-shot lag time. But sometimes you just want to take one picture, not 30, not 10, not even 5.

The layout of the camera’s buttons also leaves much to be desired. Where one’s thumb would naturally sit when gripping the camera, the video record button also sits. There is also the chance that a thumb will inadvertently press the HS button when pressing the shutter release because of where it sits, making it easy to accidentally switch to or from high-speed mode. The camera’s large 3-inch LCD is nice and bright, but is probably the culprit as to why buttons seem awkwardly placed in the meager space beside it.

Conclusion

The battery life of the EX-FH100 is remarkable, and its compact size makes it easily portable, though it is noticeably heavier than many point-and-shoot cameras on the market right now. Because it uses a backlit CMOS sensor, it does incredibly well in low-light, capturing sharp images even in the dimly lit temperate rain forests of northern Washington State. With a whole host of Best Shot scene modes, as well as Manual, Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority modes, the EX-FH100 does stand alone as a feature-rich compact digicam, but if you are looking into purchasing this camera it’s most likely for its specific high-speed capabilities.

Casio EX-FH100

  • MSRP:
  • $349.99
  • Size/Weight:
  • 4.1″W × 2.5″H × 1.2″D; 0.77 lbs.
  • Image Sensor:
  • 10-megapixels, 1/2.3-inch high-speed CMOS (back-illuminated type)
  • Still Recording Format:
  • RAW(DNG),JPEG (Exif Ver. 2.2),DCF 1.0, DPOF compliant
  • Memory:
  • SDHC Memory Card compatible
  • Display:
  • 3.0-inch TFT color LCD
  • Video Recording Mode:
  • Still images: RAW/10M(3648×2736)/3:2(3648×2432)/
    16:9(3648×2048)/9M(3456×2592)/7M(3072×2304)/
    4M(2304×1728)/2M(1600×1200)/VGA(640×480) High-Speed Movies: 224×64(1000 fps)/224×168(420fps)/448×336(240fps)/640×480(120fps)/448×336(30-240fps)/640×480(30-120fps) HD Movies:1280×720(30fps)
    STD Movies: 640 x 480 (30fps)
  • ISO Equivalent:
  • Auto/ ISO100/ ISO200/ ISO400/ ISO800/ ISO1600/ ISO3200
  • Power Source:
  • Rechargeable lithium ion battery (NP-90) x1
  • Contact:
  • www.casio.com
Share

Camera Bag Review: ThinkTANK Photo Airport International V2.0

ThinkTANK Airport International V2.0 Review
by Thomas Trimbach

The Airport International V2.0 camera bag from ThinkTANK Photo ($329.00 MSRP) does exactly what its name implies. It’s a travel bag for your cameras, lenses and just about anything else of value, and is designed for just about any travel situation—even if you don’t take an airplane.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share

Interchangeable Lens Camera: Samsung NX10 Review

Samsung NX10 Review
Text and Photos by Allison Gibson

Interchangeable Lens Digital Cameras

A new genre has emerged in digital photography gear: the compact interchangeable lens digital camera. Not to be confused with its rival, the Micro Four Thirds system camera—which is, in turn, the rival of the digital SLR camera—the interchangeable lens digital camera is, in bare-bones terms, a hybrid point-and-shoot/D-SLR. With a large APS-C size CMOS image sensor that’s as big as those found in entry-level D-SLRs, the compact interchangeable lens camera has the advantage of a smaller, more lightweight body. The major defining difference between the compact interchangeable lens digital camera and the D-SLR is that the former is mirrorless, meaning it abandons the mirror box (which in a D-SLR is necessary for the viewfinder to see exactly what the lens sees), operating exclusively with Live View shooting—the same way that the Micro Four Thirds camera does. (See my recent review of the Panasonic Lumix GF1 to learn more about the Micro Four Thirds standard.)

So far in 2010, three cameras of this type have been announced: the Samsung NX10, which was floated as a concept at PMA 2009 and then introduced in full at CES 2010; and the Sony NEX-3 and NEX-5, which were both announced on May 11, 2010 after Sony introduced the concept at PMA.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share

Hands-on: Adobe Photoshop CS5

Adobe Photoshop CS5 & Photoshop CS5 Extended
Text and Images by Tony Gomez

Adobe Photoshop CS5 and Photoshop CS5 Extended—part of Adobe’s recently introduced Creative Suite 5—are the latest versions of the world standard for digital imaging software. CS5 comes packed with several new features that will be of great interest to you as digital photographers, including: the clean removal of unwanted photo elements; High Dynamic Range (HDR) Pro image processing with multiple exposures; better noise removal and image sharpening; and Automatic Lens Correction to minimize lens optical distortion effects. Here I will delve deeper into how these tasks work and what effect they will have on your post-production work-flow.

High Dynamic Range (HDR) Processing and Simulation

HDR processing is a solution for the inability that a digital camera tends to have in capturing a single digital image that contains the full tonal detail range—from extremely bright, to very dark shadow detail.  You need to capture a multiple set of images, each with under, normal, and overexposed settings.  HDR then blends these multiple images into one image which has an expanded dynamic range. Photoshop has incorporated HDR processing into CS5.


OVEREXPOSED, NORMAL EXPOSURE, UNDEREXPOSED AND COMPOSITE
click the thumbnails to see the full-size images

There are some important tips to consider before Photoshop CS5 can work its HDR magic. First, take your D-SLR off the Automatic mode, and use the Aperture Priority Mode to shoot. This is because you don’t want successive images to be captured with different f-stops, as this would result in images with different focus points. Next, it is ideal to use a tripod to shoot your multiple exposures because you don’t want your hand to move the camera significantly between successive exposures, or there will be “ghosts” created in the final HDR image. However, if you don’t have a tripod available, and if your D-SLR can be programmed to rapidly shoot three successive exposures while automatically varying the shutter speed by the required amount, the three captured images should be stable enough so that HDR Pro software will give you the desired result without ghosts.  Even if there are ghosts, Adobe HDR Pro has a “ghost removal” feature. My rule of thumb for good hand-held HDR image capture is about 1 to 2 frames/second.

Select your multiple-exposed images and then from the Tools menu select Tools/Photoshop/Merge to HDR Pro to import the images into Photoshop CS5. You can control the degree of HDR processing by adjusting the Radius, Strength, and Detail Sliders to higher numbers. Also adjust the Vibrance and Saturation sliders for more intense color. Finally, the Contrast of the overall HDR image can be further adjusted from the Curve Control.  When finished, save your image as a TIFF file for high quality preservation.

Clean Removal of Unwanted Photo Elements

Most of us shoot in the real world, not in the ideal photographer’s studio. Our captured images often contain distracting objects besides the main intended subject—trees or poles popping out from behind a subject’s head, or ugly telephone wires which detract from a scene’s beauty. Wouldn’t it be great to magically remove these distracting objects? This unwanted object removal has long been the bread and butter task for professional Photoshop artists, but even the most masterful among them can leave behind telltale signs that something has been removed from the background.

BEFORE AND AFTER
click the thumbnails to see the full-size images

Photoshop CS5’s new Content-Aware Fill Option performs this image removal magic for you automatically without painstaking effort or masterful selection skills. This new fill feature removes a distracting object intelligently, without leaving signs of its removal because the lighting, tone, and actual noise of the surrounding areas are matched. The removal is transparent.

Unwanted objects can be removed by either being painted over with the Spot Healing Brush tool and the Content Aware Fill option, or by using the Lasso Tool and then the Edit-Fill/Content Aware Fill option. The process is automatic and nothing short of magical. Bravo, Photoshop CS5!

Noise Removal and Image Sharpening

Digital noise is present to some degree in every captured image. You need to reduce this digital noise, particularly if you are making a large print. The Camera RAW 6 plug in for Photoshop CS5 has some expanded controls for noise reduction—not only noise in the luminance (brightness) region, but also in the chrominance (color) region. To take full advantage of these expanded noise reduction tools in CS5, you have to capture a RAW image. Photoshop CS5’s RAW 6 Plug-in recognizes more than 275 D-SLR models, so there’s a pretty good chance your RAW image will be supported.

BEFORE AND AFTER
click the thumbnails to see the full-size images

Opening up your RAW image in CS5 makes available several new control sliders: Luminance, Color, and Edge Detail.  Move the Luminance slider to the right to remove grayscale (non-color) noise. Move the Color Slider to the right to remove Color noise. Both of these controls can have a softening effect on the image detail, so to sharpen up your noise-free image, move the new Edge Detail slider to the right. When all adjustments have been completed to your liking, save your Camera RAW image as a TIFF format.

Automatic Lens Distortion Correction

One of the greatest things about a D-SLR is that it allows you to use various lenses for different effects. However, even expensive interchangeable lenses have imperfections known as optical distortion.

BEFORE AND AFTER
click the thumbnails to see the full-size images

Three common types of optical distortions that exist, particularly in wide angle lenses, are: Barrel distortion (where straight lines seem to bow out, as if around the sides of a barrel), Chromatic Aberration (where blue fringing is present), and Vignetting (where darkening occurs in the extreme edges of the image).

Photoshop CS5 offers a Lens Correction feature which automatically removes most of these imperfections. You engage this feature from the Filter/Lens Correction menu selection. Adobe has implemented a growing database of interchangeable lenses to choose from, allowing you to custom tailor your profile to your own specific lenses if you wish to correct these optical distortions. The Adobe Lens Profile Creator is available as a free download from www.labs.adobe.com.

Computer Requirements

Photoshop CS5/CS5 Extended is available for either Mac or Windows format. For the Mac platform you need OS10.X or higher. For the Windows version, you need Windows XP/Service Pack 2 at minimum, with later versions of Windows Vista and Windows 7 recommended.  Photoshop is very memory intensive, so you need 1GB minimum, and 2GB recommended. And your processor needs to be powerful enough to handle the more complex processes—dual core CPUs are recommended, with quad core preferred.

If you want ultimate control over your captured digital images, Photoshop CS5 is more than capable. The basic Photoshop CS5 version is $699.00 MSRP, with a $199.00 upgrade from CS4. The 3-D graphics market is very hot now, and a more powerful version, Photoshop CS5 Extended ($999 MSRP) offers exciting 3D extrusions through its Repousse feature. With it you can also create exciting 3-D images with realistic lighting, shadows, reflections, and refractions of lighting. For more information go to www.adobe.com.

Share

Pentax Optio I-10 Review

Pentax Optio I-10 Review
Text and Photos by Allison Gibson

Retro Cool Compact

Similar to the white Pentax K-x D-SLR, the white Pentax Optio I-10 compact camera is eye-catching and envy-inducing—a beautiful object in the hand of the photographer. Weighing only 5.4-ounces, and measuring 1.1-inches thick, this ultra compact point-and-shoot is light and slim. And with the charming retro look of its pearl white body, the I-10 (which also comes in black) has style.

What’s Old is New

Because so many point-and-shoot cameras share similar specs and price points, manufacturers sometimes try to attract consumers by setting their cameras apart with style. Most camera makers opt to go the route of sleek and futuristic for these compacts, but Pentax has taken a look back for their style cues—back to the once beloved Pentax Auto 110 film camera. The new Optio I-10 (notice the homage to the past even with the name?) is styled after its elder—with a digital face-lift of course. At PMA in February, I had the chance to check out the old and new side by side, and the similarity is staggering. Both fit right in the palm of your hand. With the popularity of all things vintage in photography right now, such as the Hipstamatic iPhone app and resurgence of Pinhole photography, the I-10’s retro cool looks are right on trend. But how does it fare as a contemporary camera?

Beyond the Beauty

With a 12.1-megapizel CCD sensor and offering 5x optical zoom, the I-10 features much of what consumers want in a slim and stylish point-and-shoot. The 5-25mm (28-140mm equivalent) f/3.5-5.9 PENTAX zoom lens does offer a less than desirable aperture range, however. The camera’s 2.7-inch LCD screen—with a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio—is quite bright, even in direct sunlight. Though a 3-inch screen is ultimately more desirable for framing, it would have caused the camera body to be larger, and one of the I-10’s most celebrated features is its petite size.

Shooting Modes and Special Features

The I-10 features a host of subject and setting-specific shooting modes, which are accessed at the touch of the “Mode” button on a four-way D-pad to the right of the camera’s LCD. It is convenient that Pentax has chosen to not bury this menu deep in a digital folder somewhere because most users of this point-and-shoot will opt to swap modes fairly often, as the shooting environment changes from, say, Surf and Snow to Night Scene. Also included among the 24 shooting modes are: Auto Picture, Program (which allows slight tweaks to Auto such as white balance and exposure compensation), Portrait and Digital Shake Reduction (SR). There is also a mode called Digital Wide, which stitches together two pictures to create a wider image. This is not to be confused with Digital Panorama mode, which stitches together more than two images taken with the camera to create a panoramic photograph.

In addition to the point-and-shoot friendly shooting modes, there are a few features that are meant to assist in quality image capture. Another of the four-way D-pad choices takes you directly to a Focus Mode menu, where you can choose from among: Standard, Macro, Super Macro, Pan Focus, Infinity and Manual. To help the photographer avoid taking blurry pictures in challenging lighting conditions, the I-10 features a mechanical sensor shift Shake Reduction system. The Optio I-10 also features High Definition video (720p at 30fps) in .AVI format.

Interface

As I touched on above, there is a four-way control on the back of the camera, located to the right of the LCD, and owing to its petite size, there is room for few other manual controls on the body. A playback button and a button for Smile Capture and Face Detection are found above the four-way D-pad. Pentax’s “Green Button,” which is also found on the Pentax Kx, allows for a customizable quick-jump to a specific menu feature—I set it to EV Compensation. The button also doubles as the trash option when reviewing images in playback mode. To the left is the Menu button, where a fairly straight-forward set of options is presented in lists. At the top of the camera, we find the on/off button, shutter release and zoom toggle.

Beyond the D-SLR-like looks of the I-10, it carries over the feel of one in a small but important way with the raised hand grip on the front of the camera and the “leatherette” texture in the same place. I find that too many ultra compact digicams are hard to get a comfortable handle on, with their sleek body designs and slick plastic cases. The I-10 feels a lot more secure in-hand than most due to the small details of the grip and texture.

Performance

I did the bulk of my test shooting outside on a sunny day at a farmer’s market, and found that this was the ideal shooting condition for the I-10. It does well handling detail in bright spots and shadows, and focuses quite quickly on still objects in good lighting. In Auto Picture mode, with the Standard Focus option, I was able to get close-up shots with shallow depth-of-field, as it “took the guesswork out of photography” for me, as they say, reverting automatically to f/3.5 and ISO 80 to capture food displayed at a seller’s stand. When I shot the food that was inside of my farmer’s market tote, it punched up to ISO 800 in Auto mode and still maintained low noise. The results of photographing moving subjects in difficult lighting conditions were less consistent, however. At a fashion show in Malibu (a prime environment for showing off the stylish little digicam, by the way), the I-10 had some trouble tracking the fast-moving runway models under the inconsistent catwalk lighting.

The Price of Beauty

The I-10’s price that has been raising a few eyebrows since its January announcement, though I have to note that at $299.99 $249.99 (updated price) (MSRP) it’s not outrageous. People seem to expect to get everything they ever dreamed of in a camera these days for less and less money. All said, it is in the same ballpark as—or even less expensive than—some digicams with comparable specs. But I don’t like to play the spec-by-spec comparison game. It’s best to get your hands on a camera, get your eye to the viewfinder (or fixed on the LCD in this case), to judge whether it’s worth your money. You’ll need to weigh the limited aperture range against the stylish looks and ultra compact portability; the less consistent capture of moving subjects in difficult lighting against the impressively low-noise capture at higher ISOs when shooting still objects. In my estimation, the Pentax Optio I-10 packs an intuitive UI, HD video and a good zoom into its ultra compact and portable little body. Your major decision might come down to whether or not you want to commit to the camera’s unique retro look.

Pentax Optio I-10

  • MSRP:
  • $299.99 $249.99 (updated price)
  • Size/Weight:
  • 4.0”W x 2.6”H x 1.1”D; 4.7 oz. loaded
  • Image Sensor:
  • 12.1-megapixels, CCD
  • Still Recording Format:
  • JPG
  • Memory:
  • SD/SDHC, 26.7MB internal
  • Display:
  • 2.7-inch LCD (230,000 pixels)
  • Video Recording Mode:
  • 1280×720 (30/15fps); 640×480 (30/15fps);
    320×240 30/15fps in .AVI (Motion JPG) format
  • Image Stabilization:
  • Still: Sensor-Shift SR, Pixel Track SR, Digital SR (ISO 3200-6400 5M or 3.8M) Movie: Movie SR
  • ISO Equivalent:
  • Auto: 80-800, Digital SR 80-6400 (ISO 3200-6400 at 5M or 3.8M) Manual: 80-6400 (ISO 3200-6400 at 5M or 3.8M)
  • Power Source:
  • Rechargeable Li-Ion Battery D-LI92
  • Contact:
  • www.pentaximaging.com
Share
Page 3 of 712345...Last »